Martin Gibbons, c/o The Palm Centre

Idly surfing the Net recently and checking out some of the many new palm web-sites I began to ponder on just how much the palm scene has changed during the relatively short period of my interest, say 20 years. I date the beginning of my fascination with palms from a note on the fly-leaf of the first book I ever bought on the subject, ‘Supplement to Palms of the World’ by A. C. Langlois. It says simply ‘Stobart (the name of the bookshop) 1979’.

Hopelessly outdated now, of course, I well remember taking it home, making myself a really strong cup of tea, and delving into this strange new world. What wonders there were to be found between its covers! Clinosperma, Eremospatha, Liberbaileya, Dolichokentia and many other names totally new to me provided such a rich dish, I hardly knew where to begin. I only knew how hungry I was.

And such pictures! Moody and grainy black and white shots, many quite poor, many apparently quite old, but even more mysterious because of it. Dark pictures of natives bearing huge palmy leaves or entire ‘infructescenses’ (whatever they were), bearing them aloft in a jungle clearing, like big game trophies. There was even a curious picture of a man dressed all in white and wearing a straw boater, surrounded by palm trees. Is that what palm collectors looked like, I wondered? The author wrote with such a passion, I literally read the book from cover to cover, something I’ve never done with any palm book since.

My next purchase was ‘Palms of the World’, the gaps in which ‘The Supplement’ attempted to fill. Published even earlier, in 1960, it too contained these thrilling photographs from years gone by that enabled, indeed encouraged me, to first put my foot on the palm trail that was to lead to so many weird and wonderful destinations, and bring such fun, such pleasure and such satisfaction.

I had to wait another three years for the first ‘modern’ palm book to be published. Ah! Here was a real palm book, with colour photographs that brought palms out of the gloomy shadows and into the bright sunlight, as though it had jumped a hundred years. ‘Palms’ by Alec Blombery and Tony Rodd was its name, purchased in 1983. Subsequently re-published as ‘Palms of the World’ (not very original it must be said), I still refer to it, and laugh at the comments I made in it in pencil, as I groped my way towards a better understanding of these plants that would come to mean so much to me. Other books followed: Palms in Australia, Palms of Malaya, Palms in Colour, Palms & Cycads, the indispensable Genera Palmarum, all grist to my ever-hungry mill.

As I bought these books I devoured them one by one. But then the trickle of new publications became a flood, and suddenly, within the space of just a few years, the number of available titles went from 5 to 10, then to 20 and 30. I joined the International Palm Society and received their quarterly journal, Principes, more to read. Now there are so many chapters, all with their own magazines, so many new books (Principes lists over 50 titles) it’s quite impossible to keep up. Even some palm catalogues take a week-end to get through.

Then there is THE NET! Doing a search for ‘Palms’ gets you thousands and thousands of 'hits' (references to check). ‘Hardy palms’ gets you almost the same number. You could spend a lifetime looking them all up, and never reach the end. It's like an enormous library devoted simply to palms. But there is a down side too. With all this information available, where does a new enthusiast begin? It was easy for me: for a good number of years, I was able to keep up with the flow of titles. My appetite was so huge, that the amount of information available was never quite enough to satisfy me. I was able to 'Stay Hungry' as Arnold Schwarzenegger once famously advised.

It's different these days, and it's all too easy to get swamped by the flood of knowledge. I'm glad I started in the 'early days', when palms were 'new' and so was my interest. My advice? Take it easy, a step at a time, you can't do everything at once, and you simply can't collect every palm. I know; I tried. And just remember, it could be worse. You could be into Fuschias! MG.


  02-02-23 - 12:12GMT
 What's New?
 New palm book
 Date: 24-05-2004

An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms
by Robert Lee Riffle, Paul Craft.
 New: Issue 48
 Date: 24-05-2004
Chamaerops 48
has been published in the Members Area.
 Archive complete!
 Date: 03-12-2002
All Chamaerops issues can now be found in the archive: More than 350 articles are on-line!
 Issues 13 to 16
 Date: 28-08-2002
Chamaerops mags 13, 14, 15 and 16 have been added to the members area. More than 250 articles are now online!
 42 as free pdf-file
 Date: 05-08-2002
Free Download! Chamaerops No. 42 can be downloaded for free to intruduce the new layout and size to our visitors
 Issues 17 to 20
 Date: 23-07-2002
Chamaerops mags 17, 18, 19 and 20 have been added to the members area. Now 218 articles online!
 Book List
 Date: 28-05-2001
Take a look at our brand new Book List edited by Carolyn Strudwick
 New Book
 Date: 25-01-2001
'Palmen in Mitteleuropa'
by Mario Stähler
This german book tells you all about how to cultivate your palms in Central Europe. more...